Hey, I care about those poor people too!

Written by Chad Ellens : May 6, 2008

I’m tired of being accused of indifference to the poor. Fringe folks and radicals (like the readers here) usually give me a hard time. Sure, I’m wildly successful. Sure, I wear $140 pants. Yes, I drive an Audi and/or my wife’s Lexus SUV. But just because I am the affluent pastor of a suburban megachurch doesn’t mean that I don’t care about poverty. I care about those poor people too!

Every week, I look over thousands of faces…looking to me to help them understand what it means to follow Jesus. We all know that Jesus cared about poor people. And in my own way, in my own suburban context, I too have a ministry to the poor.

Hey, maybe it works for some of you to live among the poor in urban neighborhoods, doing your gardening, protesting, letting people in off the streets, or whatever-else-it-is-you-folks-do. But the rest of us are looking for more practical, mainstream ways of caring for the poor. Here are 10 things I, or my church, have done in the last year to help alleviate poverty:

  1. Invite high profile speakers and or musicians to help raise awareness. Last week we had a huge youth concert at church featuring Derek Webb. That guy is ALL ABOUT caring for things like poverty. In the past year we’ve had guest speakers from Bread for the World and Evangelicals for Social Action. We even had Shane Claiborne come speak at a special youth and young adults rally last year. Sure, these sorts of events are expensive. But you can’t put a price tag on awareness.
  2. Promote the One Campaign. In the southwest corner of our lobby (by the E parking lot), we have an information kiosk where people can learn more about the One Campaign. And every quarter, we include a blurb about the One Campaign in our projection announcements.
  3. Give some of your church budget to global poverty. We set aside 1% of our multi-million dollar budget for World Relief. That ends up being a lot of money. And when we spent $19 million on building expansion last year, we put $190,000 towards organizations like Compassion International and Bread for the World. At our church, we have particular concern for foreign poor people.
  4. Do a sermon series. Last year, I did a sermon series called “Poor People of the Bible.” Each sermon began with a hilarious little skit featuring different poor Bible characters. At the end of each sermon, I offered practical steps for faithful living. Sometimes it was a hard task…especially with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus overstates things a lot and it takes serious translation work to help it apply to my congregation.
  5. Serve the poor. Since there aren’t any poor people in our suburb, we have built partnerships with urban soup kitchens and shelters. My small group, for example, helps serve breakfast to the homeless every month. It makes my heart feel warm to help out. Afterwards, as a reward, we treat ourselves to a swanky brunch at our favorite restaurant.
  6. Buy Fair Trade. Most people are poor because of bad choices. But some people are poor because they can’t get a decent wage. That is why it makes sense to buy Fair Trade goods on occasion. For example, whenever I order a double mocha at Starbucks, I make sure that they use Fair Trade Coffee. My wife could spend hundreds on new purses, but sometimes she make a sacrifice by making hand made purses from women in Peru. Since they only cost $90, she usually buys two at a time.
  7. Put pocket change into those little cans at grocery checkout lines. I think that money goes to alleviate child homelessness. Every little bit helps.
  8. Create jobs. Most of our janitors at church were unemployed for a long time before we hired them. Sometimes people need a helping hand. And personally, by utilizing a gardening service and a maid service, my family is employing exactly the sort of person who would be poor without a job.
  9. Don’t throw it away, donate it. It may be junk to you, but often times, poor people aren’t that picky. Consider donating it to Good Will. After all, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
  10. Vote for Obama. While I can’t official endorse a candidate as a pastor, as a person, I am endorsing Barack Obama. In the past, I’ve always voted Republican. But Obama fills me with such hope. A vote for Obama is a vote for hope. If you vote for anyone else, you don’t care about poor people.
Pastor Chad Ellens doesn't exist. He is the satirical creation of Mark Van Steenwyk. Fictionally speaking, Pastor Chad is lead pastor of the Crossing Pointe Community Church in Brook Springs, Colorado (a suburb of Denver). His 5,000 member church is pushing the envelope on what it means to follow Jesus in large buildings with a large budget. Ministry is his passion, but his wife Tammy and their 2.5 kids is his life.

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